Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans

Sweet Potato and Gruyère Pie with Pecans-13163

Who doesn’t love sweet potatoes?  Culinary gravity inexorably pulls them toward brown sugar or molasses or something candied, even with bacon (candied bacon).  But don’t do it, at least not this time.  I never encountered a sweet potato during my year abroad in the Swiss canton of Fribourg, a stone’s throw from the town of Gruyères (town, plural: cheese, singular), but I can guarantee that that if there were ever a culinary match made in heaven it’s sweet potato and that most hazelnut and butter flavored of all cheeses, aged Gruyère.  Some cheeses should never be melted (sorry, brie en croute is ghastly) but Gruyère is just the opposite.  Quiche, the poster child of boring French food from the ’70′s, is redeemed by the addition of aged Gruyère.  Fondue without Gruyère is but a pale revenant of the real deal.  Gruyère is expensive (around $20/lb.) but the recipe only calls for a cup and half of the stuff, grated, about 3 ounces.  Unfortunately, I only found out about the Gruyère after the ingredients photograph had been taken.  Jody announced that she’d added Gruyère–I couldn’t even photograph it being stirred into the bowl.  I growled and stomped around.  I should have waited until I tasted the finished pie.  Gruyère and sweet potatoes rule.

A patio of one’s own – Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco

Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco TGF-1

Here’s the scene: working-class neighborhood, first house, first back yard, first patio.  Radical move against the local pave-the-yard-build-a-grape-arbor esthetic.  We christened the patio’s finish by inviting neighbors Pam and Chris to join us for Grilled Spring Onions with Romesco.  At the time, almost two decades ago, I’d heard of Romesco, the thick Catalan sauce based on roasted red peppers and nuts, but not grilled spring onions, which my wife assured me was a big deal in Barcelona.  She was right.  The Calçotada is a month-long Barcelonan lovefest to calçots, spring onions, which are then grilled and slathered with Romesco.  Imagine a sloppy Falstaffian bender lasting most of April, involving untold quantities of red wine and masses of fragrant grilled onions wrapped in newspapers or served in inverted clay roofing tiles and eaten with your hands.  Uh-huh, who isn’t down for that?

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce

Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce-1

Well, it had to end some day, our last taste of the Bue Zones: Sweet Potato Wontons with Cashew Sauce.  Contrary to all of the clichés about Californians, in reading Dan Buettner’s description of Seventh Day Adventists in our final Blue Zone, in Loma Linda California, I was put in mind of the genial self-effacing mainstream Mormons of Jonathan Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven.  They’re enthusiastic, they volunteer, they care about each other, always willing to pitch in and lend a hand.  In short you’d be happy to have them living on your block.  Except that they’d live way longer than you; actually, they live longer than just about anybody.     

Okinawan Stir-Fry with Bitter Melon, Sweet Potatoes and Turmeric Poached Eggs

Tofu Stir-Fry with Bitter Melon, Sweet Potatoes and Tumeric Poached Eggs TGF-1

If you’ve been plaguing yourself with the question When, oh when, will I ever learn to cook bitter melon?  then fret no more, relief is at hand, the stars finally have aligned for you this week.  We’re offering our take on the Okinawan dish of Champuru, a Tofu Stir-Fry with Bitter Melon, Sweet Potatoes and Tumeric Poached Eggs.  By the time you finish this recipe you’ll be a bitter melon whiz, and when people ask about that cool new flavor you’ve introduced into your stir fries you can say, Nothing, really, just a little goya.  Oh, you might know it as bitter melon.   

Welcome to our third post on from one of Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones*, the Japanese island of Okinawa.